The University of Sydney Academic Standards and Policy Committee (ASPC) proposed adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism under their new anti-racist statement earlier this month.
This move is a part of the University’s commitment to “a process of ‘truth-telling’ to research and uncover instances of the University’s with and engagement in the racial ideas and practices of Australia’s colonial past.”
The IHRA considers the “targeting of the state of Israel” as an antisemitic manifestation. It also condemns “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.”
The University’s anti-racist statement plans to include the antisemitism definition with two exceptions, arguing that it is not anti-Semitic to:
- criticise the government of Israel, without additional evidence to suggest anti-Semistic intent
- To hold the government of Israel to the same standards as other liberal democracies
USyd Students’ Representative Council President Lia Perkins believes that “the content about truth-telling is a good step for the Uni, and I personally believe the significance of this shouldn’t be overshadowed with the IHRA. It’s also really not truth-telling about the Palestinian struggle.”
The SRC and National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) were initially told that the definition will not be adopted but was introduced due to “pressure from different organisations.”
NTEU President Dr Nick Riemer opposes the University’s endorsement as the IHRA definition is “routinely used to suppress criticism of it in universities.”
“At a time when Israel has been engaging in the bloodiest attack on the West Bank for decades, it’s shocking that our management is prepared to cave into the lobby groups who try to shelter it from criticism.” Riemer said.
“If management really thinks academic freedom is the highest value, then they need to say so unambiguously and they need to have nothing to do with this discredited definition. Universities like the ANU, Toronto, Aberdeen and others, including in Australia, have declined to adopt the definition. Instead of trying to play to both sides, we should unambiguously do the same.”
This step has received criticism from Palestinian advocacy groups like Australian Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN). USyd Ethnocultural Officer and APAN-member called the IHRA definition “an incorrect conflation between Israel as a state and the Jewish people. Antisemitism is not anti-Zionism, just as opposing Australia’s colonial project is not therefore ‘racist against white Australians’.”
“Israel is not and has never been a ‘democratic nation’, for so long as it continues to implement a system of apartheid, expand its settlement project, besiege the Gaza Strip, throw Palestinians in jail under administrative detention, continue to build its apartheid and expansionist wall, deny the right of return, this nation cannot be considered democratic and should be subject to full scrutiny.”
The motion will be proposed in front of the academic board tomorrow.